What I Go to School For: The Cost of a Malaysian Education | The Full Frontal

What I Go to School For: The Cost of a Malaysian Education

Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion made by the writer. 

I don’t know if you’ve heard it yet, but let me share some tea with you. A few days ago, a UiTM lecturer went under fire for shaming a student in her class for being unable to afford a laptop after he admitted to attending classes on his phone. She berated him, saying that a laptop “only costs RM800” and shaming him for not being able to afford something “that cheap”.  

She then proceeded to ask him a lot of invasive questions about his family and home life, and after getting to know that the student is in the B40s, she suggested that he should get his sister to sell off her gold bracelet to purchase the laptop he needed for her class. 

That’s not really the worst of it, believe it or not. She continued to go on a long rant to say how she dislikes the B40s and their behaviour towards education, and asked him to switch off his camera because she “refuses to see his face ever again”.

Can The Average Malaysian Afford A Tertiary Education?  

stressed out man
Haiyo… stress. Source from SMU Blog

I have a question: What was she trying to get at? What’s her beef with B40s? Did she think going to university was a piece of cake? Getting there alone takes so much hard work. 

Let’s lay it bare, okay? A person who just graduated high school doesn’t have the means to go into university themselves. 

Sure, they’ll have some help, such as those fortunate enough to get help from their parents or those who decide to take out loans. PTPTN, MARA, other scholarships, etc are all available to Malaysians alike. But obviously, these loans don’t just get handed to you. 

A large number of students either do not qualify, do not get enough to cover all their expenses or are unable to pay their debts after leaving university.

That’s not to count the everchanging loan policies that might cause a problem in the future, leaving students at risk of being forced to work multiple jobs just to pay off their loans when they couldn’t even afford it in the first place. 

The burden of debt is also painful — as of 2021, more than 500,000 Malaysians still owed money to PTPTN and some 700,000 borrowers had been inconsistent in making loan repayments.

At present, local public university course fees average about RM7,000 – RM9,000. For private universities, it may be approximately three to five times that amount or more, depending on your major. Yeah. university’s expensive, man.

Is University Even Worth It?

books drowning people
All Master’s students do is get buried in research. Source from UMKC WordPress

Other than being able to get into university, you have other things you need to worry about as well. Settling in and getting into the routine of going to class is easy enough. But then you have the books you need to buy for some of your classes and other necessities as well that you may or may not be able to afford on your limited budget.

Sure, the loans and scholarships help, but not by much. To those who are from the B40s, the loans aren’t only for their tuition fees. Some university students use the loans they get for other purposes as well. Like sending them to their family members who are more in need of the money than they are or using it to buy groceries or food for the week. 

With the amount of money you get from your loans and how much you have to carefully plan to spend it (taking into account the things mentioned above), things are tough for a struggling University student. 

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t actually pursue your studies if you’re passionate about it. But it does make you question whether or not getting your degree or your Master’s is worth it.

Why should I pay for something I can easily find information for online?”, or “Why would I be in debt just to work minimum wage (if I ever get a job at all) at a place I have to settle for?” 

But then, you go into university expecting to learn a lot about what you’ll experience in the working world. And while you have quite high hopes at first, the outcome is kind of underwhelming. Personally, for me, when I first graduated, it took me a whole year and a half (give or take) to get a real job. 

Even with my qualifications, most of the places I applied to required that I have a minimum of two years of experience in working. What does it mean for a fresh graduate with no working experience in working at all then? So that begs the question…

Is University Really Necessary?

money or books
Why are universities so expensive? Source from Save The Student

I graduated from university over six years ago. My parents are currently pressuring me to further my studies for a Master’s and eventually get a PhD. Personally, I don’t know if I need a PhD in anything. 

To me, the only reason people would even want to pursue a PhD is that they either don’t want to work or that they just absolutely love learning so much they can’t seem to part with it.

Which is fine, really because everyone has a preference. But I just thought that the whole purpose of getting a degree or a Master’s is having to be able to get accepted to jobs to pay back the loans for the university.

According to a Malaysian Domestic Student survey by QS Enrolment Solutions, 28% of University students thought that a degree was necessary to compete in the workforce. 

There’s such a competitive market for the working world at present and you most likely can’t get a job without either at least a degree or experience, would you really want to go through all that trouble to go to university and risk being in debt when you can just… work? 

And I’m already knees deep in loans. I should be able to spend my hard-earned money how I please instead of worrying about adding another bill to pay if I decide to further my Master’s, shouldn’t I? 

There’s a lot to think about. 

So, What Now?

graduating with questions
Ultimately, it’s all up to your decision. Source from At The Core

Even after my rant on all of this, let me be clear about one thing — my opinion shouldn’t have to affect yours. It’s really up to you whether you’d like to continue on with your Master’s or PhD. If you can afford it and if you think it’s something you want to do, then go for it! 

University wasn’t completely horrible. One thing’s for sure was that I managed to get all my mental illnesses diagnosed during my degree, so that’s probably where my money went. I’m in no way saying that having a university education is invalid or anything. Because I have those and it has helped me a bunch, even when I’m reluctant to admit it. I’m just saying that it’s a lot to commit to.

And once you’ve worked for a while, most companies don’t even look at your certifications anymore. They just want to see your experience. Which begs the question: is our time in university really worth paying back for this long? And I don’t just mean the money. 

After all, isn’t there enough for us to worry about before we grow old and grey? Or do we need to just add this to another list of things to dread about as an adult? 

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